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Our Story

The story begins in 1924 when Jules Steverlynck sailed from Belgium to Argentina accompanied by his brother Charles with the intention of charging an unpaid business transaction. The Steverlynck brothers fell in love with this new world and immediately decided to try their luck in the southern hemisphere. Following the family tradition, they installed a textile plant in less than a year.

The first establishment soon proved unsuitable for the rapid growth of the business and Jules ventured to the «far west» in the province of Buenos Aires, where he found an abandoned mill on the banks of the Lujan River. Don Julio discovered that this scene was the right one for his plans, which surpassed any strictly industrial and economic expectation. Don Julio’s vision was to develop a community where the Catholic values ​​of social reform could become a reality. Marie Alice was also totally committed to her husband’s vision, and over time, the spiritual and physical well-being of the workers and their families became their personal mission. The sparsely populated area of ​​Jáuregui was the ideal land for this dream to flourish because it allowed a new city to grow based on the needs of the workers and the activities of the textile plant.

The project of Don Julio and his wife was a great success. Flandria grew rapidly during the first 20 years, employment rose from 200 to 1,800 workers. The promising city that grew around the plant became known as Villa Flandria, in honor of the homeland of Flander Steverlynck. The growth, prosperity and harmony enjoyed by the inhabitants of the city was no more than the result of the social initiatives implemented by Algodonera Flandria. These initiatives were unique and advanced for Argentina, including: interest-free loans, benefits for the acquisition of construction materials so that workers could build their own homes, the highest wages in the industry, 8-hour workdays (10 years before that is established by law), marriage and maternity leave among others. In essence, Don Julio put into practice two Catholic encyclicals that are considered the basis of the Christian Democracy: Rerum Novarum (written by Pope Leon XIII in 1891) is an open letter that deals with the conditions of the working class upholding the rights to form unions, but rejecting socialism and affirming the rights to private property and Quedragesimo Anno (escirita por Papa Pio XI) written in response to the Great Depression of 1930, in which Pio XI calls the establishments of social order to base the principle of subsidiarity. To this day, Villa Flandria is considered a great example of what was known as «Industrial Paternalism» over the years, the socio-economic model that emerged from the implementation of these two encyclicals in Argentina.

Algodonera Flandria also took care of all the basic needs of Villa Flandria’s residents, such as electricity, health, streets and maintenance and even entertainment. The philosophy of a healthy and balanced life for all held by Don Julio is reflected in social establishments and sports institutions that remain fully functional to this day. For example the rowing club «El Timón», the cycling track, the musical band «Rerum Novarum» and the soccer club «Flandria», all created and financed by Don Julio and Marie Alice. Being the number one priority of the couple spiritualism, they built three churches in the area, which were the center of many social activities of Villa Flandria.

These enormous achievements were achieved in a similar way within the house of the Steverlynck: by the end of 1944 Don Julio and his wife had sixteen children. His family life was parallel to that of La Algodonera, with the construction of Santa Elena, a home that portrayed, both in natural beauty and architecture, the love and devotion of this couple for their children and the land they had chosen to settle head.

By the early sixties, Villa Flandria had become a kind of living myth, inspiring interests from many sources at various levels, both in Argentina and the rest of the world. The work and achievements of the Steverlynck family caught the attention of the King of Belgium, so much so that in 1965 Saint Helena was honored with the visit of His Majesty Baudoin I and Queen Fabiola, followed by the visit of Argentine President Arturo Illia and many others. internationally respected personalities.

In 1966 the Steverlynck family suffered one of their greatest tragedies when Marie Alice’s life came to an end. The death of Marie Alice was a great shock, not only for Don Julio and his family, but for the entire Villa Flandria, to which Marie Alice had dedicated her life dealing with all the issues that concerned the community.

During the following 10 years Don Julio continued working with the help of two of his children and his lifelong collaborators. The company continued well in terms of the economic, although it could never achieve the achievements of the forties and fifties. In November of 1975 with 80 years Don Julio passed away. His death marked the second strong crisis of the community of Villa Flandria, whose inhabitants attended mass funeral celebrations.

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